The Best Sales Call I’ve Ever Seen [The Missing Link]
It was a Sunday morning during football season and I was alone in Idaho getting ready for the San Francisco Forty-Niners to kickoff. In the final year of my English Major at Boise State University, I had aspirations of teaching high school students and coaching baseball- ambitions far and wide of what would actually occur.
Working two jobs to put myself through college, a Sunday morning to myself was a luxury not often realized so a knock at the door during the coin-flip, and the subsequent appearance of a man obviously intent to sell me something, was not welcome.
Holding a metal clipboard in one hand and a spray-bottle in the other, the man smiled widely and introduced himself as Arnold. A miracle cleaning solution is what he planned to sell me. Arnold explained that he was from Louisiana and that he traveled all over the country giving folks the opportunity to solve a problem they didn’t even realize they had. For only $19.00 per concentrated bottle his miracle solution would clean literally, anything: grease from the stove, carpet stains and windows without leaving streaks. It would even clean oil stains off of my driveway!
I didn’t care about his product at all, but Arnold was genuine and I liked him immediately. He had a personality that was infectious. I wanted to buy from him but I was a college student, barely getting by. At the end of his pitch I thanked him and told him I wasn’t interested.
Arnold nodded as if understanding my reluctance. “Can I give you a quick compliment?” he asked. I stopped closing the door and listened. “You’ve got a beautiful home. Real nice neighborhood. And your home? Right up there with the best of them.”
I thanked him and he continued, “Here’s the thing, though, I noticed that outside you’ve got a lot of oil stains on your driveway.”
“You see”, he continued, “this bottle will completely clean those old oil stains. Just think about how good it’s going to feel when you’ve got the cleanest driveway in the neighborhood. That’s something your neighbors will notice.”
I tell him that I can appreciate that but…
But Arnold continues. “Or on the other hand, you may decide you don’t mind having oil stains all over your driveway, which would be a shame, but I’ll go talk with your neighbors and before long you’ll end up with the ONLY stained driveway in the neighborhood,” he finished, shaking his head sadly.
I assured him that I understood how that would feel and was comfortable with the outcome.
“I’ve got a question for you,” he interjected. “Is this a good real estate market, here?”
I told him it was.
“I thought it might. Beautiful neighborhood. You know what I heard? I heard that when the bank comes out to appraise a home, curb appeal plays a real psychological role in the final appraisal. Small things like an oil-stained driveway can impact your home value by as much as 1%. Just think about how much one bottle of $19 cleaning solution could be worth?”
I told Arnold that I really appreciated him stopping by, that I understood the financial implications, but I was ready to go watch the game.
“Okay, I hear you,” he told me. “I appreciate the situation you’re in. Here’s the last thing I’m going to say. I’m going to head out to your driveway and clean an oil stain for you. Since I’m here. Now, if you want to come watch a man work, that would be fine,” he finished, his voice trailing as he began to turn and walk away.
I smiled to myself and followed him to the driveway. I liked Arnold.
Bending down he proceeded to spray several pumps of solution on an oil stain. Revealing an old toothbrush from his back pocket, he scrubbed at the spot in a circular motion, looking up at me and smiling. Then, from his other back pocket he produced a white terry-cloth towel, wiped and sure-enough the stain was gone.
Placing the spray bottle, clipboard, towel and toothbrush on the ground, Arnold sprang to his feet in mock surprise, pretending to be flabbergasted. Then at once, as if overcome by the result he turned and began sprinting away from me. He ran incredibly fast down the sidewalk, across the street and another fifty yards before turning the corner and continuing away. In shock, I bent down and picked up the spray bottle, staring off into the distance after him.
Years later I found myself in sales, supporting a small but growing family. I went through numerous training sessions and found that I had a natural affinity for the profession.
Soon, I was conducting my own training sessions, generally placing an emphasis on conveying a value proposition (the old elevator pitch), communicating benefit statements and articulating an ROI. I believe strongly in the value of role-playing and would often lead engaging sessions around key sales benefit statements:
• The Opportunity Benefit Statement: Communicating a clear opportunity for your prospect to differentiate themselves from their competition.
• The Fear Of Loss Benefit Statement: Articulating what the prospect has to lose by failing to utilize your product or service.
• The Testimonial Benefit Statement: Providing your prospect with examples of others who have benefited from your product or service.
During these sessions, I always reinforced the importance activity. Sales is a numbers game in which we will fail more often than we will succeed. Ultimately, our job is to create connections, communicate value, demonstrate passion for our product and when things don’t go our way, have a planned exit strategy.
It was another three minutes before Arnold came back, walking down the middle of the street, a slight swagger in his step. I stood there, holding the cleaning solution while he approached, slightly out of breath, the hint of a grin in his eyes.
“I don’t know about you,” he said while bending down to pick up his clipboard, toothbrush and towel, “But I did NOT expect that to happen.”
Laughing, I handed him the spray bottle.
“Now, isn’t that worth nineteen dollars?” he asked.
From my wallet I pulled a twenty-dollar bill, handed it to him and told him to keep the change.
It wasn’t really the best sales call I’ve ever seen. For one, Arnold never really asked me any questions. He had a product to sell and, generally speaking, I try to avoid product selling in favor of solution selling. Still, Arnold possessed something that I’ve never seen since in such abundance: capital “P” Passion and complete dedication to the sale. I cannot fathom the work Arnold was doing. Having door after door slammed in his face, traveling across the country, making a living $19 at a time. But you wouldn’t know it. Arnold was fanatical about his work, selling a product that had no business benefiting from his fanaticism.
Later that day, when my dad came home I told him that I bought a bottle of spray cleaner for him. It was his house after all. He joined me on the couch to watch the ‘Niners lose. He asked me where I got the cleaner and I told him that it was a door-to-door salesman. Shaking his head, he patted me on the back. “You’re a sucker, Jeramiah,” he told me.
Maybe I am. Sales people are the easiest to sell, after all.